The wave of flight cancellations and delays continues into the New Year, as many airline companies in the United States have been forced to cancel thousands of flights as a result of the Omicron variant and bad weather conditions. The highly contagious Omicron variant has spread throughout many flight crews in the last few weeks, resulting in many having to call out of work. This has left many airlines without a steady, full crew, which has then led to cancellations being necessary.
Cancellations and delays started the week of Christmas, with Christmas Eve especially seeing a dramatic rise in flight cancellations and delays because of the Omicron variant. Since then, almost every day has seen some amount of flights canceled — often, at least hundreds to thousands of flights canceled. Analysts were previously worried that these cancellations and delays would severely impact New Year holiday travel, as analysts had forecast that the first Monday of the New Year would be one of the busiest travel days thus far.
Now, as this Monday is upon us, it does appear that these analysts were right to worry. Already, thousands of flights have been canceled and delayed. In the United States, more than 1,9000 flights were grounded. Worldwide, 3,300 flights were grounded. Monday’s cancellations come after thousands of flights were canceled on Saturday and Sunday as well.
While most of these cancellations are a result of the Omicron variant spreading quickly through flight crews — and thereby making it impossible for infected workers to continue traveling and working — there are some flights that have been impacted or grounded because of bad winter weather. For example, a winter storm is expected to hit the east coast this afternoon. Therefore, flights from or to the District of Columbia, northern Virginia, and central Maryland have been impacted as a result of these storms.
On Monday thus far, 5,000 flights have already been delayed. This number may continue to rise, just as cancellations may keep rising, as the day goes on.
Winter storms also had a hand in flight cancellations during the New Year’s first weekend. A winter storm that hit the midwest caused about a quarter of all flights at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to be canceled or grounded.
Many airline companies have been forced to cancel flights because of these winter storms, or because of the highly contagious Omicron variant that has spread throughout workers and flight crews. Hawaiian Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and SkyWest have all had to cancel or delay hundreds to thousands of flights in the New Year because of these reasons. Southwest has already had to cancel about 11% of its flight schedule, whereas SkyWest has canceled 20% of its flight schedule.
These cancellations and delays have left travelers stranded in the New Year, and during one of the biggest peak holiday season travel days. Some travelers have been left stranded for days in various parts of the nation because connecting flights have been canceled without them knowing. While all airlines have stressed that they are working quickly to help travelers return home, this solution may not come quickly because of the Omicron variant and because of bad winter storms.